The Port of Port-of-Spain – SHIRLEY BAHADUR
by Peter Christopher of the Trinidad & Tobago Guardian
The T&T Coalition of Services Industries (TTCSI) is hoping that there will be a significant increase in exports following two recent initiatives piloted by the group.
Chief executive officer of TTCSI Vashti Guyadeen hailed an export accelerator programme called Gateway to Trade as well as the development of an online hub meant to push export of services as game changers.
Guyadeen said, “These two initiatives are game changers for the economy of T&T. The findings from the National Services Exporters Survey (NSES) 2020 enabled us to customise an export accelerator programme called Gateway to Trade as well as develop this country’s first national Go Global TT Services. Developing the services sector in T&T must be strategically managed and the mechanism to do this is through robust data analytics and this is what we have been driving at the TTCSI since October 2018.”
The services sector, the TTCSI noted, is underperforming.
According to the Central Statistical Office Labour Continuous Sample Survey of Population: Labour Force Bulletin, T&T, despite having an export mix that mainly consists of petroleum and petroleum products at its core, has an economy with a services sector that accounts for more than 60 per cent of annualised GDP (as of 2020) and 70 per cent of quarterly GDP in Q3 2021. The sector also contributes significantly to job creation, consistently accounting for approximately 85 percent of the labour force.
The bulletin stated that as of 2018, the service economy incorporates more than 90 per cent of registered businesses in T&T.
According to the report, despite having such a large chunk of the workforce and significant economic weight, the services sector’s contribution to trade measured as the sum of service exports and imports divided by the value of GDP, is substantially low.
The services trade, according to the survey, only amounted to 9.4 per cent of GDP in 2020.
This figure represents consecutive years of decline down from 18.2 per cent in 2017.
The TTCSI is hopeful that the development of the National Services Exporters Portal could remedy this downward trend as the group stressed the gradual positioning of the sector as a major export earner would therefore be a significant accomplishment for the country in the coming years.
It was acknowledged that shifting the current approach would require robust data-driven policy actions to push export-led growth of the sector, which continues to be constrained by the limited availability of disaggregated services data.
The group is hoping the findings of the NSES 2022 will help address the data shortage and propel the needed growth of the sector.
The survey will be the second time in a three-year horizon that the TTCSI with funding from the Ministry of Trade and Industry has attempted to capture the performance of services in T&T.
Guyadeen said, “The purpose of this exercise is to enable data-driven strategic planning of the sector to grow the sector’s export capacity over the coming years. The survey progresses the preliminary NSES conducted in 2019 to provide updated data on the economic contribution of the sector, its current export capacity, and existing barriers to exporting. Additionally, the survey extends its objectives to capture insights on the pandemic’s impact on service providers, and the effectiveness of Government’s relief initiatives throughout 2020 and 2021.”
She added, “The NSES 2022 also offers an opportunity to compare the results of the current survey against the last exercise to shed further light on the transformation of the services landscape.”
The TTSCI is aiming to use comparative analysis against the 2019 survey. To achieve this the NSES 2022 will target the seven previously assessed sub-sectors: business and professional services, energy services, ICT services. Education services, fashion services, tourism services, creative services.
Guyadeen explained to better align with the MTI’s Trade Policy 2019-2023, there were three additional sub-sectors that were identified by the policy, as well as TTCSI’s advocacy efforts as priority sectors for diversifying the country’s exports and foreign exchange earning-capacity were included. The added sub-sectors are aviation services, health and wellness services, and commercial maritime/yachting services.
The TTSCI said the NSES 2022 would potentially generate data that can be used by the public and private sectors to identify development strategies “that are congruent with the changing socio-economic landscape. For instance, the survey’s results can be used to identify opportunities to grow the global competitiveness of local service providers or to facilitate business to business networking opportunities for individuals, firms, and potential investors. Furthermore, it can inform risk management strategies for major socio-economic shocks that may occur in the future.”
The TTCSI also noted that despite T&T having a wide range of service industries, a ‘local services hub’ branding strategy does not currently exist. The National Services Exporters Portal is expected to address this as its overall objective is to position, brand, market and promote T&T as an international services hub.
The TTCSI added, “Activities which will support its development include the creation of a local services cluster development portal, inward/outward trade missions and proactive media engagement. A network of local services firms will be established as this will enable businesses to become globalised quickly through shared expertise and opportunities.
“This network will act as a local adviser on international markets, develop market entry strategies, organise trade workshops and provide in-depth market reports. It will also facilitate the exchange of experiences and knowledge of international markets by encouraging dialogue between service companies, governments and technology suppliers on the e-commerce side.
“The high cost of exporting has been a major challenge for both exporters and non-exporters in the local services sector and as a result, firms could use this ‘local services hub’ to engage in joint marketing efforts such as branding, market research, and bundling of services which would help reduce export costs.”
The TTCSI is also hoping these two initiatives will further push the promotion of e-commerce practices.
According to the group, “The overall marketing promotion strategy will be expanded to include the development of multiple integrated sales channels. Special emphasis will be placed on the use of new digital media such as social media, mobile applications and online advertising. A clear, consistent, and compelling message which drives demand to the local services sector must be delivered through all channels.”
There was also a call for additional promotion of e-commerce practices.
The TTCSI noted,”The overall marketing promotion strategy will be expanded to include the development of multiple integrated sales channels. Special emphasis will be placed on the use of new digital media such as social media, mobile applications and online advertising.
“A clear, consistent, and compelling message which drives demand to the local services sector must be delivered through all channels.”